I used to be one of those gals who would spend most of the winter daydreaming of warm getaways to the tropics, never giving the chilly season a fair chance to captivate me. But, traveling to Northern Norway with Visit Norway and Impact Travel Alliance changed all that. From dog sledding amongst the snow covered trees to a very unique home stay with a sami reindeer herder to a once-in-a-lifetime visit to the Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel, the countries cold weather captured my heart.
Over the recent years ice hotels are snagging a place on many bucket lists (mine included!), and for good reason–albeit cold, just imagine sleeping on a bed made entirely of ice in a room with ice walls!
Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel: Sleeping Amongst Ice
in Northern Norway
About Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel
Located just 20 minutes from the Alta city center, Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel is the northernmost ice hotel in the world, as well as the largest one in Europe. It started modestly in 1999 and has been built up from scratch every year since, which is exactly what allows for it to operate with an ever-changing theme for each winter. Typically, the sculpture and room motifs are related to the culture of the arctic world, though during my visit the decorated rooms were fairytale related (think Alice in Wonderland, Alladin and Snow White).
It truly is a luxury location amidst the ice that not only boasts approximately thirty bedrooms and decorated suites, but also an ice bar, intricate ice sculptures and even an ice chapel.
How would you like to get married here?
Though Sorrisniva is specifically known for being an igloo hotel, it offers many other amenities on premise, like a delicious farm-to-table restaurant, relaxing sauna and a warm main lodge where the fire is always blazing and the wifi connection is surprisingly strong (plus free!).
Sleeping in an Ice Hotel
From the entry into the ice cave, there are two long corridors to the left where each side is lined with rooms. The doors are simple reindeer hides hung like a curtain. You won’t find much in the quaint rooms, but what you do find is built entirely from ice! That includes everything from the bed to the walls to any tables and chairs. The single rooms are modest with only a bed, whereas the two-room suites may have a bench and table added to the mix.
I spent the night in the Snow White suite where one room had a long bench seat with a table on one side and an ice plaque on the other that had a famous quote from the movie: “Mirror mirror on the wall who’s the fairest of them all.”
The rest of the facilities, such as bathrooms, are located in a separate warm service lodge. This is done not only to ensure the comfort of the guest, but for practical reasons as well. You can’t exactly have a hot shower in a room made of ice, right?
What to Expect During the Night
Although the temperature of the igloo hotel is always in the negative degrees (-4℃ to -7℃ ), there is no need to worry about staying warm. You’ll feel plenty comfortable with the natural reindeer hide mattress and two down sleeping bags–or at least I was during my stay! I even woke up in the middle of the night and had to shed a layer. However, it is recommended to bring along some woolen underwear to wear during the night, this should provide you with maximum comfort and be beneficial just in case you need to use the restroom in hours of darkness!
A morning sauna is also included in your booking, and it is a nice treat to be consumed by all of that heat after a night spent in the cold.
- Keep your shoes by the bed just in case you need to use the restroom in the middle of the night. Or just do like I did and don’t drink anything within three hours of going to bed!
- Bring a smaller tote bag inside your luggage (like one of these cute ones from Baggu), so you can easily carry just what you need from your luggage into the ice room. Your large luggage will stay in the main lodge.
- Bring an insulated water bottle that you can fill before going to bed. My Takeya bottle was impressive! Even in the coldest temperatures, it kept my tea warm for hours.
A table is reserved for all the guests at the ice hotel, and you’ll be grateful because eating there is an excellent way to indulge in some traditional Norwegian cuisine. They use only the freshest seasonal ingredients, receiving meat and fish from local areas, vegetables from farms nearby and harvesting berries of impeccable quality.
My dinner started with an amuse bouche of dried reindeer heart (which was actually pretty tasty!), and then a starter of dried cured salmon from Alta fjord. For the main I ordered the salted cod from the Norwegian island of Sørøya. And for dessert, it was a must to have the cloudberry tart, a popular berry from the area.
There is also a breakfast buffet available for those of us who have worked up a hunger after a night in the ice room. Warning: it’s not your typical bacon and eggs, instead you will find things like reindeer roast beef and local cured trout. My favorite was the do-it-yourself vafler machine, these traditional heart-shaped waffles are delicious when they are warm and topped with jam!
Other Activities (There’s More than Just Ice!)
While sleeping in the ice hotel itself is most definitely the main draw into the area, it is not the only cool (pun intended!) and interesting activity that you can do during your stay. For starters, this ice hotel is located in an area from where you can see the Northern Lights! This nightly phenomenon is by far one of the most gorgeous natural sights you could ever lay our eyes on. And the location of Sorrisniva specifically is particularly good for viewing.
If you are interested in the Northern Lights, there are a few different tours that Sorrisniva offer, one in particular which includes an overnight stay at the ice hotel. You can find them here.
Another great winter day activity at Sorrisniva is the snow mobile safari. This isn’t something you’ll get a chance to experience everywhere, and riding one can be so exhilarating! There are several tours offered for this as well, and I’d definitely recommend giving it a go if you’re interested in seeing more of your surroundings rather than just the hotel. Even if you happen to be from a snowy country to begin with, the winter landscape in Northern Europe is something else!
And that’s not the where the fun ends – you can also go dog sledding as well as get better acquainted with reindeers, while also learning about Norway’s sami people. Whether you are going for a dog sledding ride or a reindeer sledding ride – or why not do both! – you’re guaranteed to have the time of your life.
You can also wake up with a Sámi family in the Arctic tundra by booking with Visit Natives who specialize in these unique homestays. The experiences provided by About Natives are authentic and immersive. This is what I did and we were picked up right from Sorrisniva. There are no planned tours or strict itineraries, it is about real-life experiences with unique indigenous people. Their aim is to promote sustainable travel where nature and the local people are respected. Read about my unique home stay experience at a reindeer herder’s home with Visit Natives.
If you still happen to have some extra time left in your schedule, there’s one more thing to try: ice fishing! This is an actual traditional activity for the locals to do, not just a gimmick for the tourists, which makes it all the more special for the visitors of Sorrisniva. The only tour available for this on Sorrisniva’s web site comes combined with a snow mobile adventure, meaning you’re hitting two bucket list birds with one stone.
One of my favorite and simplest activities was snowshoeing and sledding. The hotel provides complimentary ones right at the front doors of the lobby to use as you please. And I did.
Needless to say, while this experience may not be suited for exactly everyone, for me it was another bucket list adventure not to be missed. So, how about it? Next winter, instead of escaping the cold to a tropical country, you fully embrace the chilly weather of Norway.
Essential Tips for Going to Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel
Getting To Norway: As mentioned, Sorrisniva is located in Alta, in the northernmost part of Norway. You can book a flight into Alta from many major US cities with Norwegian Air, which—by the way—was named the most fuel-efficient transatlantic flight! For a special treat book a seat in Premium Class, it combines budget prices with first class service and amenities. I almost had too much leg room (is that even possible?) and the reclining chair with retractable foot rest made sleeping easy peasy (which is never the case for me in economy)! Plus, I felt very fancy to be served a drink prior to taking off. But, the BEST part was no jet lag—zilch…nada…none—because their new energy efficient planes are designed for less cabin pressure which equals less jet lag.
NOTE: The flight from Alta to Oslo is approximately two hours. You may choose to fly directly to Oslo, spend a few days exploring there (you’ll have a layover there anyway when flying to Alta from the US) and then pop on a quick Norwegian Air flight to Alta from there.
Getting from the airport to the Oslo city center is easy-peasy on the Flytoget high-speed train. It leaves right from the airport (follow the signs) and takes about twenty minutes.
Getting To Sorrisniva from Alta: From the airport or the Alta city center, you can take a taxi to reach your destination, though it will run you around $100. Sorrisniva also offers transportation for its overnight visitors a few times per day (you can see the schedule here), just make sure to book it ahead of time!
Where to Stay: In Alta , you may want to stay at least a night before and/or after heading to the igloo hotel. A great choice is Thon Hotel Alta, that is situated right in the center of town. They have cozy rooms that overlook the beautiful Northern Lights Cathedral, and their restaurant has many tasty options from arctic char to reindeer filet. The Scandic Vulkan is also close by and the Sorrisniva shuttle picks up/drops off directly from there.
If you choose to spend time in Oslo (and you should!) the sustainably conscious hotel choice would be Scandic Vulkan, which is in the center of the trendy Vulcan area where there are dozens of restaurants and the Mathallen food hall right next door. But definitely don’t miss breakfast at the hotel, it is one of the best I’ve ever had.
Or search some great deals on hotels of your choice at Booking.com. If you’re looking for more of a home atmosphere (or are traveling with a group of people), head over to Airbnb that has houses, apartments and even just a room for rent in every price range.
Booking a Room at Sorrisniva: You can wake up in an ice room by booking on the Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel website. Just reserve a room for a night or look into one of their package deals that also includes another experience like:
Sustainable Travel: If you want to learn more about making an impact through travel and sustainability, visit Impact Travel Alliance who are committed to improving our world through tourism.
Insurance: It’s always a good idea to travel fully insured so you are protected in case of trip cancellations or medical emergencies. You can check out pricing are Travelex Insurance.